In a recent interview, Alvin Plantinga suggests that if, as atheists claim, materialism is true, our beliefs, including the belief that God does not exist, are unreliable. The real reason for the popularity of atheism amongst those who should know better is that refusing to believe in the existence of God is, as Peter Hitchens agrees, simply a choice – and not a particularly rational one – made by atheists because they don’t want God interfering with the way they live.
The whole interview is well worth a read:
Thomas Nagel, a terrific philosopher and an unusually perceptive atheist, says he simply doesn’t want there to be any such person as God. And it isn’t hard to see why. For one thing, there would be what some would think was an intolerable invasion of privacy: God would know my every thought long before I thought it. For another, my actions and even my thoughts would be a constant subject of judgment and evaluation.
Basically, these come down to the serious limitation of human autonomy posed by theism. This desire for autonomy can reach very substantial proportions, as with the German philosopher Heidegger, who, according to Richard Rorty, felt guilty for living in a universe he had not himself created. Now there’s a tender conscience! But even a less monumental desire for autonomy can perhaps also motivate atheism.